Pro-Gun Activists Spearhead Coronavirus Quarantine Protests Through Coordinated Facebook Campaign Groups

A family of right-wing pro-gun activists are reportedly spearheading a coordinated collection of Facebook groups advocating for anti-quarantine protests across the country.

The cluster of pages, which have amassed more than 200,000 members collectively in less than a month, call for an end to the state-ordered lockdowns put in place in an attempt to limit the spread of COVID-19, the highly infectious respiratory disease linked to more than 42,000 U.S. deaths.

The network—which remains active—is managed by members of the Dorr family, including at least three siblings named Ben, Christopher, and Aaron, The Washington Post reported.

The Dorr brothers have previously been tied to a variety of gun rights and anti-abortion groups, including Minnesota Gun Rights, Missouri Firearms Coalition, Ohio Pro Life League and more.

But this month they have seized on a variety of states' stay-at-home orders, using Facebook to urge citizens to share information about their lockdowns and gather in protest. As noted by The Washington Post, the groups have become hotbeds of pro-Trump rhetoric and misinformation.

In recent days, some relatively small groups of anti-quarantine protesters have gathered across the U.S., including in Michigan, Ohio, Washington, Pennsylvania, Texas, Wisconsin and more. Broadly, they argue COVID-19 restrictions infringe on civil liberties and cause too much economic damage.

As the bio on one of the Dorr brothers' Facebook groups, which all use very similar language, proclaims: "Politicians are on a power trip, controlling our lives, destroying our businesses, passing laws behind the cover of darkness and forcing us to hand over our freedoms and our livelihood!"

Some of the groups are Wisconsinites Against Excessive Quarantine, Pennsylvanians Against Excessive Quarantine, Ohioans Against Excessive Quarantine and New Yorkers Against Excessive Quarantine. They were all created by a member of the family between April 14 and April 15.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine said on Sunday that protesters "have every right" to gather, but said they should continue to adhere to the known social distancing guidelines, The Hill reported.

Facebook says it has not removed the groups because individual states have not ruled against "drive-in" style of protests—some of which have maintained basic distancing measures.

CNN reported the social network deleted some content that was promoting anti-quarantine events in California, New Jersey, and Nebraska and was continuing discussions with other states.

A Facebook spokesperson said in a brief statement on the matter: "Unless the government prohibits the event during this time, we allow it to be organized on Facebook. For this same reason, events that defy government's guidance on social distancing aren't allowed on Facebook."

NBC News reported that the network is used to harvest data of members by asking them to use platforms and websites that collect personal information, including emails and home addresses.

Mark Zuckerberg, the billionaire founder of the platform, said in an interview on Good Morning America this week that urging citizens to break social distancing would be crossing the line.

"We do classify that as harmful misinformation and we take that down," he said. "At the same time, it's important that people can debate policies, can basically give their opinions on different things, so there's a line on this, but you know, more than normal political discourse, I think a lot of the stuff that people are saying that is false around a health emergency like this can be classified as harmful misinformation that has a risk of leading to imminent physical danger. We will be take that kind of content down."

Facebook has been contacted for additional comment.

U.S. unemployment has spiked during the COVID-19 health crisis, with approximately 22 million people reportedly now left out-of-work as normal business operations across the country have stalled.

The Trump administration recently unveiled a three-phase plan for reopening some parts of the country, but conflicting messages from the president called on residents of Minnesota, Michigan and Virginia to "liberate" the states. Trump tweeted the second amendment was now "under siege."

In a White House briefing on Monday, the president referenced the protesters as "great people" and stated that "some governors have gone too far" with their coronavirus restrictions.

President Trump elaborated: "I've seen the people. I've seen interviews of the people. These are great people. Look, they want to get—they call it 'cabin fever.' You've heard the term. They've got cabin fever. They want to get back. They want their life back. Their life was taken away from them."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advice on Using Face Coverings to Slow Spread of COVID-19

  • CDC recommends wearing a cloth face covering in public where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
  • A simple cloth face covering can help slow the spread of the virus by those infected and by those who do not exhibit symptoms.
  • Cloth face coverings can be fashioned from household items. Guides are offered by the CDC. (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html)
  • Cloth face coverings should be washed regularly. A washing machine will suffice.
  • Practice safe removal of face coverings by not touching eyes, nose, and mouth, and wash hands immediately after removing the covering.

World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Hygiene advice

  • Clean hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Wash hands after coughing or sneezing; when caring for the sick; before, during and after food preparation; before eating; after using the toilet; when hands are visibly dirty; and after handling animals or waste.
  • Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth. Do not spit in public.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue immediately and clean your hands.

Medical advice

  • Avoid close contact with others if you have any symptoms.
  • Stay at home if you feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and runny nose, to avoid potential spread of the disease to medical facilities and other people.
  • If you develop serious symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) seek medical care early and contact local health authorities in advance.
  • Note any recent contact with others and travel details to provide to authorities who can trace and prevent spread of the disease.
  • Stay up to date on COVID-19 developments issued by health authorities and follow their guidance.

Mask and glove usage

  • Healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if taking care of a sick person.
  • Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
  • Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning.
  • Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Clean hands if you touch the mask.
  • Learn how to properly put on, remove and dispose of masks. Clean hands after disposing of the mask.
  • Do not reuse single-use masks.
  • Regularly washing bare hands is more effective against catching COVID-19 than wearing rubber gloves.
  • The COVID-19 virus can still be picked up on rubber gloves and transmitted by touching your face.
Corona Protest
Demonstrators gather in front of the Colorado State Capitol building to protest coronavirus stay-at-home orders during a "ReOpen Colorado" rally in Denver, Colorado, on April 19, 2020. JASON CONNOLLY/AFP/Getty